Monday, April 5, 2021

Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

On the afternoon of her daughter Ruby's high school graduation, Flora Mancini, while hunting for an old family photo, stumbles across a lost wedding ring, a ring that was supposed to have been lost and forgotten at the bottom of a pond for years, but somehow has reappeared.  The discovery of the ring throws Flora's life into turmoil and casts her history with her husband, Julian, into doubt.  Flora always thought she and Julian were the real thing, now she's not so sure.  Over the course of the book, Sweeney weaves the present with the past of Flora and Julian and their friends Margot and David, creating a rich drama of family and relationships that comes to a reckoning at the very place where the photo that lead Flora to the ring was taken. 

Poor Good Company seems to be having a rough go of it in Goodreads reviews.  People seem to think it doesn't live up Sweeney's smash hit debut, The Nest.  Lucky for Good Company, I suck at reading books, so I haven't even read the much-acclaimed The Nest, so Good Company gets to stand on its own merits.  And it has them!  Frankly, the way that the plot unfolded, acquainting readers with the characters and the histories by spending time with each character reminded me a bit of Maggie O'Farrell's style, which I love.  I love a story with layers that slowly pulls them off until the characters and their stories feel real, and I long for their redemption as much as they do. I love the slow burn of this style, and I love the payoff, the moment of redemption or the moment when that redemption at least seems possible.  I think Good Company accomplishes that without making things that are hard seem too easy.  

In addition to what Sweeney does with her characters, I appreciated her talent for setting the scenes.  The book takes place primarily in three places - California, where Flora and Julian are finally both making a good living after years as struggling theater actors; New York City, where both characters got their start in the theater; and Stoneham, an idyllic upstate New York farm that hosts a yearly outdoor, avant-garde theater production.  Sweeney captures the languor of a countryside summer interrupted by the excitement of a theater production.  She brings to life a California that was meant to be a temporary stop for Flora and Julia, but a sun-washed spot where they made a home.  New York and the theater scene is arguably the most well-drawn, and Sweeney captures the excitement of the theater people with big ideas trying to make them work and eke out a living, the scraping and struggling for roles, the living in a miniscule apartment, but also the magic of when it all just works.  

I enjoyed Sweeney's sophomore effort, and if it is, indeed, the lesser of her two novels, then I imagine I'll quite love The Nest!  

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley, but as ever, all bookish opinions are rendered honestly.) 

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